The Final Struggles: September 1864 to April 1865

Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

Who swore Lincoln into office?

Chief Justice Roger Taney—the man who wrote the infamous Dred Scott decision—died a year earlier, and the oath of office was, therefore, administered by the new chief justice, Salmon P. Chase. There was a great irony in the moment, and it was not lost on most of the observers. Chase had long coveted Lincoln’s job and sincerely believed he would have made a better wartime president than the man from Illinois. Lincoln had asked for his resignation as secretary of the treasury in 1864, but had then vaulted him by nominating him to the Supreme Court.

Whether Chase ever fully realized his own error is not known. He may have gone to his deathbed sincerely believing he was the better leader of men. But the comparison is not made to belittle Salmon Chase, or any of the other fine leaders of that time. They were, simply and absolutely, upstaged by the man with crude, homespun manners.


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